The more track action, the better. This is the mentality of every passionate racing driver you’ll meet. It’s also the mentality held by the majority of track owners, event promoters, and racing fans. Everyone loves when the Verizon IndyCar Series has support series with them at race weekends – there is never dull moment and you’ll always see something new.
Support series expose racing fans to new cars, drivers, and forms of racing. Like, ramps. Yes, ramps. V8 trucks hauling their larger-than-life radio-controlled-car exteriors through the air at full speed with the help of a ramp. The reactions of the crowd are always fantastic. Smiling, awe, laughter… all normal reactions because it’s certainly a sight to behold!
In case you haven’t witnessed this before, let me introduce you to the SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks! Robby Gordon started the series in 2013 and it has been gaining momentum year by year. The IndyCar series family has been connected to the truck series for more than just sharing a track over a race weekend – they’ve also had crossover with drivers – Arie Luyendyk Jr., Matthew Brabham, EJ Viso, and Davey Hamilton. Hamilton raced in IndyCar/IRL from 1996 through 2011, with a break for approximately five seasons due to an accident at Texas Motor Speedway in 2001.
Hamilton’s son, Davey Jr., was 4 at the time. Fast forward 16 years and I found myself sitting down with the younger of the Hamiltons, discussing career aspirations and racing opportunities. I have always appreciated the generational love of racing – when you’re raised around something, it becomes a part of you. That is true for me, and I know it’s true for many of you reading this… the racing bug has certainly bitten all of us in different ways.
For Davey Hamilton Jr., that bite let to a need to get behind the wheel and race, just like his father and grandfather. He started karting when he was 4 years old and has watched his dad race for the majority of his life. For the past couple seasons he watched him race the Stadium Super Trucks and that led him to St. Petersburg this past weekend, the same track where his dad made his series debut in 2014.
“Seeing (my dad) race the trucks multiple times gave me interest to do it some day. It’s definitely entertaining to watch! I want to be jumping, I want to meet all the fans and new people and get my name out there. For the past few years, it’s been something on my list. It’s great to finally be able to check it off.”
He explained that his Dad wasn’t even aware he would be racing with SST until he called him just a few days prior! So how did things come about? Hamilton Jr. has known one of the main drivers, Eric Davis, behind the scenes for awhile and they were able to put a deal together for the St. Pete weekend.
Hamilton Jr. spoke to me prior to his two races and gave me some insight about his experience thus far:
“It’s always hard to go out there and drive for a new team, new people, new everything. Not only that, but I’ve never driven anything that’s jumped in the air! But, I was able to get along with the team really well and yesterday’s practice was better than expected. I showed a lot of people I can do this.
Following Robby Gordon around for a few laps was probably the best thing for me – seeing where he slowed down, braked, all of that. The way everything happened in practice yesterday was ‘A+’ on my side of things, I didn’t wreck and I was able to get up to speed pretty quickly. There’s still a lot for me to learn, but I think going into today’s race, I’m going to be looking alright.”
Hamilton Jr. drove the No. 75 Always Evolving truck and placed P6 in his first race with the series on Saturday, March 11. He was holding his own and making a solid run on Sunday’s race but had an unfortunate incident in the last lap when he made contact with a tire barrier. Thankfully, he was able to keep going and crossed the finish line under his own power.
The Stadium Super Trucks are Hamilton Jr’s latest series but definitely not the only one. He’s been racing karts since he was a toddler and has an extensive resume racing midgets and sprint cars. His open-wheel connections go beyond his Dad’s history of contending, as well. Last year, in the Indy Lights series finale at Laguna Seca, he ran in both races with McCormack Racing. He is hoping to get some more opportunities in the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy this year, sharing:
“Indy Lights is something I’ve always wanted to pursue and get to IndyCar one day. McCormack has done so much for me with testing – I have almost 2500 miles in an Indy Lights car. Being able to get my name out there at the end of the (2016) season and run those two races was huge for me. There is some stuff happening this year (with Indy Lights) – it’s not the full season obviously, and nothing is for sure yet, but there’s a possibility of me running just at Indy and there’s also a possibility of me running the three oval races.”
Of course, as mentioned earlier, open-wheel racing is something he’s grown up loving and wanting to be a part of.
“With my grandpa trying to compete in the 500, and my dad competing in IndyCar, obviously it was going to be me going to IndyCar. It’s been hard for the past few years but ever since I was 4 years old, I was like, ‘Indy, Indy, Indy!’ Last year it started opening up to more… it could be trucks, it could be NASCAR, it could anything honestly, but IndyCar is definitely… yeah… I want it.”
Hamilton Jr. has formed a work friendship with current IndyCar series champion, Simon Pagenaud. He explains that Pagenaud has been a mentor of sorts and that learning from him is indescribable, commenting that the Team Penske driver is very technical. He is eager to learn as much as he can and understands the value of Pagenaud’s insight. He added, “…whatever he says, I have to listen!”
Things are coming together for the third generation of racing in the Hamilton family. The opportunity for two of them to race as teammates is becoming reality for the second time in this family. The Phoenix Copper Cup will take place at Phoenix International Raceway on April 29th and it’s where Davey Hamilton Jr. and his father will become the 5th father-son duo to compete in the same USAC Silver Crown event. When I asked him about this upcoming event, I could tell by the way he smiled through his answers, how cool of a circumstance this was. His words further exemplify that:
“I think in the past, my dad and I have raced each other 2 or 3 times. It’s rare if I’m at a race track and he’s even there. Being able to race against him, in something that he’s VERY good at? It’s huge. He & my grandpa were one of the last father/son duos (1998), so being able to go to Phoenix racing against my Dad, and not only that but he’s my teammate for the weekend. Being able to watch him, learn from him, we’re hoping for a 1-2 finish.”
I commented that I noticed he was driving his Dad’s old number in Phoenix, the No. 98.
“Exactly! When I got this deal together, he was like, ‘I want the No. 98’ and I was like, ‘too bad man, I made this deal happen, I’m getting the 98!’”
That familial relationship will more than likely translate into a solid team dynamic in April.
The friendships and networking that Hamilton Jr. is using to his advantage are leading him down the road to a successful career in racing. His determination is balanced with a clear understanding that the best way to advance and hone his craft is to learn from those who are currently on track and those that have metaphorically paved a road for him, like his father and grandfather.
Look for him in a paddock near you, as I have a feeling he’s going to be dipping his toes in all different series to gain track time while keeping his eye on that ultimate goal of IndyCar racing. -LFT-
Hamilton Jr. wished to send a huge thanks to Always Evolving, Replay Cameras, America’s Best Value Inn, Dale Tug and Barge out of Seattle, Washington, and everyone involved with the No. 75 Always Evolving truck, for making this past weekend with the SPEED Energy Stadium Super Trucks series happen in St. Petersburg, FL.
Photos courtesy of Davey Hamilton, Jr. unless otherwise noted.